Experience has taught me that whether you’re working in a corporate setting, for yourself as a contractor, or anywhere else in between, you will almost always be in need of ways to streamline your work for better performance all around. Improving performance can come from several different aspects of your organization: understanding your tasks, knowing your team’s work habits, understanding the needs of your clients, or simply understanding your own habits. The following is a demonstration of how some simple organization considerations can totally supercharge your workflow by creating a consistent and smart task management routine.
1. Really Understanding Your Ultimate Goals is Key
I cannot stress this first point enough. If you want to do an amazing job on a project, you really must understand the project to be able make the right decisions each step of the way. For the sake of example, I’ll use a typical type of project that many of you probably have done before — building a website. Building a website is both easy and hard. It is easy because there are a lot of tools out there that will speed up your work, but it is difficult because a lot of the time, we do things in the wrong order for the wrong reasons, which almost always slows down the whole process and pushes back your completion date.
In the context of a website development project, what does it mean to understand the ultimate goals of the project? Well, first it means that you’re building the right solution to the right problem. If you are trying to build a socially conscious website for a rock band, you’re probably not going to need to develop a user interface that looks like a web application, and chances are, you’ll need some multimedia, and connections to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Believe it or not, it is very important to make the distinction now between those types of necessities and other, not-so-useful website ingredients. The truth is that the more you understand what a projects goals are, the better you will be able to cut out the unnecessary work from the project and focus on what matters.
2. Do Things In the Right Order, Always
Doing things in a wrong order can totally break down your efficiency if you let it. The trick is to identify which sections of your project require other people’s input, reviews, information, or anything else and make those tasks come before others whenever possible. Continuing with the website development example, you’ve probably seen someone try to design a website, program the skin, and install the content management system all before stopping to gather all of the site’s information and content. This is a total rookie mistake.
Because information and content usually comes from the client, who often has no idea how to organize it all for maximized effectiveness, doing anything else first can literally stop any project further down the line. Imagine if the twitter designers had a whole UI mocked up before they knew the site was meant to populate lists of short single sentences. The UI would then probably have contained all sorts of completely useless design elements, which would cause redesign and redevelopment later on. Remember, put your info building tasks and other content related work as early in the project as possible and you’ll be become the hero who shortened the project delivery date by 3 weeks. It’s truly amazing how easy it is.
3. Get Clarity When You Need it
Just because we’re doing work doesn’t mean it’s the right work. Make sure you ask the right questions and get lots of clarity before you begin anything, ever. The reason why is because having to do something twice is a loss of time, effort, and morale. When you put 10 hard hours into a task and finish it just to be told that you totally missed the mark because you were addressing the wrong problem, you’re almost always going to start doing rework with a negative attitude, and the quality of work will be lower.
In the context of a business, we can rely on a statement of work to understand the unclear points in a project. What’s funny is many business don’t even make statements of work. They simply embark on projects, and then get feedback like “I like this, but can you do this other thing instead?” or “I don’t like it, can we try something else?” If you take the time to really map out the whole project from start to finish, and really discuss the process with everyone involved, you’re likely to figure out far in advance which parts of the process you’ve gotten completely wrong. In short, if you’re not sure its the right thing to be doing, stop what you’re doing and get clarity.
4. Understand Your Team and Delegate
There is a famous saying out there that “if you wanna get something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” That’s a total lie. Of course, if you want to get something done your way, you can do it yourself, but while you’re working on someone else’s tasks, you’re not working on your own. The more delegating, the better. Let’s say I have a team of 3 people, one person is a designer, another person is a business person, and the third is an engineer. Each of these people will have their own strengths, and not putting those strengths to use will cause an low-quality end product in a much longer span of time. Just like if you were driving a car to a particular destination, if the wrong people were navigating, driving, and such, you are likely to arrive at the wrong destination with an empty gas tank.
5. Use Tools To Help You
Understanding good task organization, clarity, and delegation is only part of the process of super charging your workflow. One often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the tools that will help you along the way. Many people out there could benefit from a project or task manager, but don’t see how it applies to them. To me, this says that they don’t understand the process of their own work as well as they should. Everything you do in life could be done better and easier if you really thought things through before hand and monitored their progress through the process. With that in mind, I recommend you use a project management tool to record your thoughts, benchmarks, projects, or any other type of ToDo’s. What brand of web application you use is really up to you — I prefer to use Projo Task Manager for all of my work because it has a really comfortable user interface and it can handle anything from little random tasks all the way up to full projects with milestones and team delegation.
This article is written by Kristian Urosevic. He is a web developer located in Southern California and the technical director for iDisplay Interactive.